The Toronto Blue Jays have had several starting pitching prospects debut for them over the last few years (Hutchison, Drabek, Alvarez, Jenkins, among others). Tonight is lefthander Sean Nolin’s turn. A number of injuries have brought Nolin up the depth chart, despite an early-season injury of his own.
Melky’s May Meter
Again Melky led off the Blue Jays’ half of the first with a hit; this time it was a home run. This put the Jays on the board, but they still trailed 3-1. Melky’s well on his way to a 35-hit month.
Sean Nolin looked good, perhaps a little too good. He threw a fastball, curveball and change-up in his very brief outing. The problem was that everything was over the middle of the plate, about belt high. The O’s are a good hitting team, and they took advantage, building a 6-1 lead before the second inning was complete. Nolin lasted 1.1 innings and threw 35 pitches, 22 for strikes, but gave up 7 hits and 6 earned runs.
The Blue Jays didn’t roll over, though. Melky and Brett Lawrie homered to make it 6-2, then Colby Rasmus doubled and Emilio Bonifacio singled to make it 6-3 for the Orioles. Conventional wisdom says that if the Jays’ ‘pen could keep them close, then the Jays could make a game of it.
Unfortunately Ramon Ortiz, who relieved Sean Nolin, gave up two home runs and three runs in his first inning of work. Chris Davis, who possesses easy power much like Josh Hamilton does, and Danny Valencia with a two-run shot, made it 9-3 Orioles in the 3rd inning. The offensive star of the game early on, though, has no homers: lead-off hitter Nick Markakis has two doubles and a single and two runs scored through 3 innings.
Things got a little testy in the bottom of the third as Brett Lawrie objected to how the strike zone was being interpreted a little too stridently for the umpire’s liking. He tossed Lawrie from the game—rightfully so—and when John Gibbons came out to make his opinion known, he was tossed as well. Brett Lawrie’s not good enough to complain as much as he does. His attitude was a major contributor to why Doug Melvin was prepared to trade him from Milwaukee (see article here: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/05/nl-central-notes-hart-choo-arroyo-cardinals.html#disqus_thread).
Orioles’ starter Pat Tillman wasn’t very sharp, either. The Jays hit him hard and scored but weren’t able to keep up with the Orioles’ offensive explosion. He typically doesn’t pitch very well against the Jays, and tonight was no exception. Through four innings, the Jays scored 3 runs on 8 hits, 4 of which were extra base hits (2 doubles, 2 home runs).
The bottom end of the Jays’ ‘pen has made it easier for the Orioles. Ramon Ortiz pitched 2.2 innings and gave up 3 runs. He was relieved by Brad Lincoln, who’s up to his old tricks. He loaded the bases with 2 hits and a walk before inducing a fly ball for the third out. He didn’t give up any runs until a 6th inning solo HR by Adam Jones, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Lincoln demonstrated such good control in his half season with the Pirates (59.1 IP, 51 H, 14 BB, 60 SO) prior to the Snider-for-Lincoln deal, that his inability to get hitters out regularly is surprising. He’s walked at least one batter in each appearance before the 12-6 win over BAL, when he didn’t walk anybody. Is this another case of the difference between NL Central-AL East parks and batters?
Watching JP Arencibia strike out for the 3rd time in the game afforded me an opportunity to research something that I suspected about him, but had no evidence to support or dismantle my theory. He has terrific power which, of course, would be even better if he was a better hitter, but it seemed to me that the overwhelming majority of his HR came very early in the count. Taking a peek at his HR log at www.baseball-reference.com confirmed the suspicion. 32 of his 54 careers homers (59.25%) have been hit on or before he sees the 3rd pitch of the at bat, while he’s hit 8 on the 4th pitch. That leaves 14 home runs after the 4th pitch of an at bat. The deeper he goes in the count, the less power he displays. I’m sorry to leave it without context, but I don’t know how common this is for hitters. JP Arencibia’s all-or-nothing tendencies at the plate certainly exaggerate this discovery. Another interesting tidbit is that in 371 PA when the pitcher is ahead in the count (0-1, 0-2, 1-2), JPA has NEVER walked. Not once.
20-year old Baltimore 3B Manny Machado recorded his 5th straight road game with 3 or more hits. He plays an exceptional 3B for someone who: is 20 years old, and played 2 games at 3B prior to his ML debut. There is at least a whisper that the O’s would like to move him back to SS when JJ Hardy vacates the position. It’s a nice problem for the O’s: Machado is well above grade at both positions on the left side of the infield, and his offensive ability (presently .337/.367/.529) stacks up well against a couple of budding ML stars named Trout and Harper. There were two young, highly-regarded 3B in the game tonight. I know which one I believe is going to be a difference maker in his ML career.
I haven’t been very complimentary about the bottom of the Jays’ ‘pen this season, Brett Cecil excepted, but Esmil Rogers pitched well enough to let his team continue to chip away at the Orioles lead. Even after putting runners on 2nd and 3rd in the top of the 8th inning, he induced two pop-ups and a routine fly ball to end the inning with no damage done.
The Jays didn’t rally, falling to the Orioles in the second game. RA Dickey gets the nod in game 3 for the Jays. They don’t need to take 3 of 4 from the O’s, but it sure would be nice if they did.